Portrait of My Poetry in Mom-Jeans

I’m teaching through different poetic schools and movements in my advanced poetry class, choosing what to focus on by my students’ requests. one week The New York School, the next the Romantics, and so on. Yesterday I was thinking about these poetic movements and lasting poet-names associated with said movements and about what gets published and what books are important. Even, further than that, why they are important. Do I write “important” work? 

Whenever I have students who say they can’t write, what they are really asking for is a topic—they don’t have a lot of life experience, so they can’t write that poetry book about a hurricane or about their decade living in a van down by the river. What I tell them and I suppose I ought to tell myself is that I believe that God values *and loves* the individual so anything written from a particular perspective is important. Maybe it won’t revolutionize poetry as we know it, but it is not without value. 

I’m a woman and I write about being a woman. I’m a Christian and I write about that too. I think those two things alone probably make my work largely unimportant—niche, maybe even regionalist with the southern Tennessee bent in my poems. All my students hate Kate Chopin but as an author I have to say I think we’d be friends. 

I don’t want to be “that woman poet”, but the VIDA seems to indicate that it’s a tough-gig. Though in my limited following of po-biz, I notice women poets and, even more specifically, mother-poets publishing books. Nicole Cooley’s Milkdress, that I read recently (and wow! Read it!). many others. Are they winning prizes and pats on the back though? I don’t know. 

Ultimately I think our society is pretty clear on its distaste for pregnancy, babies, children—if they’re inconvenient, or too expensive, or in your way, or not fulfilling exactly whatever it is you want out of life, then discard them or never have them. Certainly never write about them!

Then there’s the separate question of how do mother-poets ever have time to write. I turned down a scholarship to a summer writing workshop a couple of weeks ago. I love writing and poetry, and a couple weeks devoted to writing? Goodness. I can’t even think about it. 

Right now with my littles so very little, my writing (as a top priority) is part of what I lay down. And I know that it means I won’t be the poet I could’ve been or that my eighteen year old self wanted me to be, but I’m trading up, I know I am. I’d rather be an ok poet and a good mom than a really great oh-so-important Poet. not that those are mutually exclusive. or that there will never be time for poetry in the way i would like to have time for poetry…

Anyway, I’ve got to wrap this up—the baby needs more cheerios and the toddler wants to wear her ladybug wings.


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